Source: Brad Slager

You’d think the galaxy brains at CNN would know not to talk about ratings…at all.

On yesterday’s rendition of its morning show, CNN’s New Day hosts Brianna Keilor and John Berman had on the network’s media guru, Brian Stelter. They were discussing a subject that few — if any — on CNN should ever invoke, and that is ratings. They were touting how CNN saw a huge jump in viewership for the Capitol riot committee hearing, and that Fox News saw a significant dip from its normal daytime audience levels.

This is basically all CNN has to lean on any longer, these occasional bumps as a result of a breaking news event. That it was Stelter, of all people, discussing this topic, was bad enough, but when it comes to ratings, maybe the last place to discuss it is on New Day. This show has repeatedly been the focus of network efforts to entrench itself as a competitor in the morning landscape, and it has been a perennial failure. The July ratings show that the program is only getting worse. 

CNN engaged in the normal practice when those July ratings were released: cherry-picked select metrics to imply there was good news abounding. Of all the cable news programs the highest-rated for CNN is Chris Cuomo’s, which appears at #22. Don Lemon just experienced his lowest-rated week since rebranding his show, losing about one-third of Cuomo’s lead-in audience — and this follows the much-hyped but barely-watched town hall with President Biden. 

As CNN has seen over 50% of its audience disappear in 2021, they bragged that they had growth in some primetime shows, and made some gains in select demographic categories. It was like enduring a tornado that shreds most of your home and then attempting to start raving about the new open floor plan.

A few weeks back, Stelter had crowed how his Sunday show experienced a sharp rise as a result of their live coverage of Richard Branson’s space flight. It was lost on the host that it took a departure from his normal format to draw an audience, and in the ensuing two weeks, it has been a crash-landing return to his bad numbers. The two episodes since have been the lowest-rated of the year and this past Sunday, he drew only half of the audience they had for Branson’s spaceplane event — and in the key demographic category, he hit his lowest figures of 2021.

And yet on New Day, things are even worse. The July rankings of 41 cable news programs between 6 am and midnight saw the show ranked 40th. In that key demo category, the program came in 41st, with a dismal audience of 84,000. What makes this all the more surprising is the effort that is placed on this particular show, as well as its initial genesis. Regular retooling efforts and a new set have been employed, and there is a regular rotation of CNN’s star anchors making appearances in the effort to gin up viewership. It has only led to erosion.

Early this spring, the show was revamped, with Keilor replacing longtime morning anchor Alisyn Camerota, who was moved to mid-day. Since she took over on April 1 any initial small bump of interest has given way to disappearing audiences. The numbers New Day has drawn are not just a drop within the year, these are the lowest the show has experienced since 2014. What makes this all the more alarming is that not only have they been placing so much effort into the show but that this program has been the creation of CNN CEO Jeff Zucker.

Zucker is not only regarded as an experienced TV guy but he was brought over to the news network on the heels of his prior success — in creating morning show glory. Zucker was the mastermind who built up NBC’s Today Show into a success. It was in 2013 that New Day was created, at the full direction of Zucker. At the time, Chris Cuomo was one of the original hosts (just try to imagine beginning your day in that fashion), and ever since, the morning show has been in a regular cycle of renovation.

Over its tenure, New Day has seen hosts replaced a handful of times, with format adjustments and numerous other tweaks in the hope of generating more interest. It has rarely delivered improvements. Now they are left with the strained performances of choosing minutely selected instances of ratings success and doing so on a program where the last thing they should ever bring up is the topic of ratings.